Timely access to medicines within the community is important for palliative patients where their preferred place of care is the home environment. The objective of this observational study is to establish baseline data to quantify the issue of poor access to medicines for symptom control in the last few days of life. The list of 13 medicines was generated from medicine use within a metropolitan palliative care unit. A survey was designed to determine which of these 13 medicines community pharmacies stock, the expiry date of this stock, awareness of palliative care patients by community pharmacists and basic demographic characteristics of the community pharmacies. Surveys were distributed, by post, to all community pharmacies in South Australia. The response rate was 23.7%, and was representative of all socioeconomic areas. Each pharmacy stocked a median of 3 medicines (range 0–12) with 1 in 8 pharmacies having none of the 13 medicines listed in the survey. When the data was combined to identify the range of medicines from all pharmacies within a geographical postcode region, the median number of medicines increased to 5 medicines per postcode. Just over 1 in 5 pharmacies reported learning about the palliative status of a patient through another health practitioner. Community pharmacies remain an underused resource to support timely access to medicines for community-based palliative patients. Palliative care services and government agencies can develop new strategies for better access to medicines that will benefit community patients and their carers.
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